Monday, 14 January 2019

Snapshots Review 5: The Reviewer Strikes Back

Took me a bit longer than expected, as one of the samples was enormous (maybe 40,000 words or more). After this, I’m going to do a post with the samples that intrigued me most and which I might end up buying, and then take a break from the snapshot reviews.

Gryphon Riders Trilogy Boxed Set, by Derek Alan Siddoway

The story follows Evelyna/Eva, who is reluctantly adopted by the blacksmith Soot. Soot, and his helpful golem Seppo, raise Eva without telling her of her illustrious parentage, only for events to conspire to drag her out of her comfortable life in the smithy and into the life of being Windsworn (a gryphon rider). The awkwardness of this change is well-written, as is the preceding story sketching her time working in the smithy. The tone feels a bit YA for me, but the writing quality is good, the story moves along at a good pace without being breakneck, and the sense of nervous anxiety and awkwardness is sympathetically realistic. Probably not for me, but if you’re after a YA story, it’s well worth a look.

Dragon School: First Flight (volume 1), by Sarah KL Wilson

I did wonder about shuffling the order here as it sounded very similar to the Gryphon Riders sample. Anyway, my first impression after the first page was that it was well-written but even more YA. The sample, which is very short, follows Amel, a young woman whose leg was badly broken and never healed. She’s seeking to become a dragon rider, and the opening chapter involves everyone else getting picked first to select their beast (colour determines role, whether war, diplomacy etc). But instead, a dragon seeks her out. I’ve got to say, it’s very well-written indeed. I might even put it on the list, despite it not being my usual cup of tea.

The Chronicles of the Black Gate (books 1-3), by Phil Tucker

I’ve got to say, this sample is massive. I’d be surprised if it were much under 40,000 words and may well be larger. Thankfully, given its enormity, I really liked it. The story follows multiple POV characters, mostly focusing on Asho. In a mythical world with different castes, he’s on the lowest rung, but due to a series of events starts the first chapter as a squire and ends it as a knight and almost the only survivor of a battlefield massacre. This puts him in rather an odd position and neither he nor others know quite what to make of it. Other POVs centre on his main location, the Kyferin castle/town, though one, Tharok, is entirely separate. Tharok is a kragh, a non-human and rather strong fellow, being hunted in the mountains.

The writing style has a little more description than most nowadays. Generally this works very well although here and there it does rob the story of pace. I also like that the multiple POVs help add depth to the Kyferin situation, and create worldbuilding without infodumping. I checked, and the full thing is over 1,500 pages and costs just over £2, so that’s definitely going into the to-be-considered blog I’ll write when I finish the current batch.

The Wendy, by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown

An alternative history, it seems, set in the late 18th century England. A host of orphan babies are left in old London town, and one of these, Wendy Darling, is the character around whom the story revolves. The sample covers her awkward time in a foundling home, when she and her only friend start being taught sailor skills but are forced to take on jobs from the Home Office, as the alternative (as a young lady) is to become an apprentice to a seamstress or suchlike. The writing style is notably whimsical but I found it worked rather well. Magic and vampires seem like they’ll have a role beyond the sample. Not my usual fare but entertaining and well-written.

The Spirit Chaser (Spirit Chasers book 1), by Kat Mayor

This whole book is free, so I just read the first two chapters.

It’s a paranormal book set in the real world, following a TV show and its star presenter as they investigate demonic and ghostly activities. Early on, the show’s psychic has a warning ignored which leads to him being possessed, just about cured, and resigning, leaving the presenter with having to recruit someone else. The writing’s simpler and lower on description than I’m used to, but the pace of the story does zip along at a good pace (weirdly, the lack of flim-flam reminds me a bit of Machiavelli’s approach in The Prince). There’s some head-hopping (sudden POV changes) which may irk some people.


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